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On August 5, László Sólyom, Hungary's new president, will assume office in the Sándor Palace. It was only five years ago, on August 4, 2000, that Ferenc Mádl, his predecessor, took his oath of office against the background of a parade and an open-air concert costing HUF120m. Can we expect the same this time round? A journalist from HVG inquired at the government spokesman's office - to his cost.

The first member of the spokesman staff threw up a smokescreen. "The government has no obligation in this case." Then, the staff member was called out of the office. They were worried by our journalist's evocation of the ceremonies held on the last occasion. "The Gyurcsány government is planning a large-scale event. The Foreign Ministry's protocol department is in charge," according to the new statement. Our intrepid reporter faithfully recorded the conversation, which was later printed in the magazine.

And then the drama began. The government spokesman's office called the journalist, accusing him of misinterpreting the office's willingness to help. The use of the word "worried" was a blow below the belt, they said, the journalist concerned should kindly refrain from calling the government spokesman in future. He would no longer be given any interviews or information.

But our colleague's innocent question set off an avalanche. "There will be no festival on August 5," announced a member of Sólyom's staff. There would only be a modest ceremony held inside the Sándor Palace itself. Only members of the government and a few dignitaries would hear Mádl's farewell speech and Sólyom's inaugural address.

That would all be fine - the treasury is hardly flush at the moment, and maybe it would be best not to burden it with a 2000-style enthronement bash. But it would be interesting to know how much the government's decision was influenced by 'events'? Our colleague can now only find out from secondary sources. He was given an exemplary punishment, and will doubtless learn how far he can go if he wants to be on good terms with the government spokesman - and what the consequences are if he even indirectly questions their infallibility.

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